‘Now’ is the new ‘five-year plan’. Want to do something really bad – Go backpacking? Grow a beard (if you are a man)? Shave a beard (if you are a woman)?? Learn to play the guitar? Tie your boss’ shoelaces together?

Do it now. Now. Now. Now. Don’t have a five year plan like a shackle around your ankles.

Republic Day. Few days before chemo begins.
Republic Day. Few days before chemo begins.

I am sort-of insentient. Incoherent. Am staring that he ceiling through dancing white dots. My face burns. My throat is jammed. My nose is running. I have thrown up a while back. I lie on my back. Is that my back? It feels like it does not belong to me. Sore. Hurting.

Wait, what is that? Is an insect crawling under my skin?

I groan with pain.

What kind of pain is it, my sister asks.

I can’t describe it. It is not entirely physical pain. Maybe partly-physical. And the rest, a pain-in-the-ass kind of pain. I don’t know.

Three days back

We had reached the hospital at 8:00 a.m. for my first chemo dose – the ‘AC’ of the AC-T regimen. Doc has advised we reach early. Before it gets too crowded. I have bought a new Zara sweater for the occasion. Hope I am looking smart. Chemo-ready-smart.

On one side of the Executive OPD are beds, and on the other, chairs. I don’t want a bed. I get reflux if I lie down straight. And then, a chair looks smarter. Goes with my new sweater. It’s my Goldilocks moment. I hop from chair to chair to choose one. A Goldilocks who is soon going to lose her locks

This chair please.

The room is bright, sunlight-lit bright. The air-conditioning is on morgue-like-settings. I shiver. The nurse gets me a blanket. Alok lowers the chair back for me. I look around excitedly. Like a kid having discovered a new play area in a mall.

I must be nuts.

That's the chair Goldilocks chose!
That’s the chair Goldilocks chose!

Nurses bustle around. B.P. check. Temperature check. The doc checks on me. Orders ‘loading’. I learn that chemo meds are prepared once the patient checks in. It’s called loading. It takes a while. Till then, I read the newspaper. We have coffee. Chit-chat.

Finally, the medicine comes. Two pint-sized bottles. One is colourless. One is red, like diluted roof afza. The nurse tells me that they will be given intravenously on the left hand/arm. I cannot get any poke or jab in my right arm for life now.

Right-arm rules –No waxing. No atta-kneading. No massage . No lifting heavy stuff. For life.

They search for a vein. It takes a while. Most of the veins have been killed in the surgery. They tap. Probe. Shake my hand. Finally, they find something. The first bottle is connected.

Tup. Tup. Tup. Tup.

The medicine flows in really fast drops.

Just before the bottle is over, I get a shooting pain at the site of the cannula. I cry out. The nurse comes and stops it,

We will have to look for another site.

Nooooo. I wince.

They start again. Tapping. Shaking my arm to find another vein.  Grabbing. squeezing. I want to bite her hand. But, what if they have some chemo jail they throw me into?

I go through the first bottle. The next one is strapped on immediately. Ten odd minutes. It’s over. Time to go home. Alok takes care of the billing and we are on our way home. Quite un-dramatic.

An hour later, I feel the same. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary.

Alok has left for work. My friend is with me, offering to take care of the kids when they come back from school. (God Bless her). I have a hearty lunch – chapattis, dal, subzi. We chat and laugh. I feel fine.

They must be exaggerating about those side-effects, we conclude.

I go up to my room to take a nap. I toss in bed for a couple of hours. No sleep. I decide to quit trying.

I come downstairs. My friend says I look a little pale. White.

Am feeling fine. Just a little dizzy.

I did not sleep very well last night worrying about today. I think that’s what’s causing this.

The evening is uneventful. Feel a tad squeamish. Maybe, I am just imagining things.

The next day, I have to go to a clinic nearby to get a shot of (Inj. Pegylated G-CSF)to stimulate my white blood count.  I shower and shampoo and am ready. Alok peers at me cagily.

You look fine. No side-effects?

I just shrug smugly.

We exchange high-fives.

You are a champion, mann!!

I celebrate the premature coronation.

The evening bursts the bubble. I feel a surge of nausea. Palpitations. A strange, overwhelming weakness. A dry, parched feeling inside.

By the third day, I have fever. Must have caught a bug from my son. The doctor starts Augmentin, an antibiotic. My body complains loudly. I lie hot and incoherent. I feel like crying. But I can’t. I can only manage to whisper. I am feeling scared. I don’t know why. I am not really a panic-prone person by nature. But, I feel fear now. Is it induced by the physiological changes inside? I don’t know.

My sister has flown down from London to be with me. She rubs my feet. Talks to me. Scolds me when I refuse juice. Manages my household. A blessing.

The first week of chemotherapy is like a terrorist-ambush. I don’t know what hit me. I am terrified.

Chemotherapy has introduced itself to me. Not very politely, I have to say.